Am I being sarcastic? You figure it out

By Steve Outing

I don’t know what it is about the online medium (well, I have an idea), but it’s often the case that sarcasm is lost on people. It happens in e-mail; it happens in blogs. If you don’t make it super clear that you’re being sarcastic, some segment of your readership will take you seriously — and completely misinterpret your message.

Editor & Publisher columnist Joe Strupp’s column, “Ads on the Front Page? Bring It On!“, is dripping with sarcasm (till the last paragraph). Yet in the first mention I saw of the column, in an e-mail summary of media news produced by MediaDailyNews, the summary writer takes him seriously. (“Strupp favors just sticking ads square on the front page, above the paper’s names or tied in with a headline.”)

Umm, Strupp was being sarcastic. Read the article rather than skim it and that’s obvious.

Hmm, maybe the summary writer was being sarcastic?! It’s hard to tell.

As to why this happens online, the reason is fairly obvious: People tend to skim online content more than what’s on the printed page, so subtlety can easily get lost. I know this personally from having been involved in a major eyetracking study a couple years ago. Most online readers don’t pay close enough attention to most stories to pick up subtleties.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

2 Responses to "Am I being sarcastic? You figure it out"

  1. Mark Hamilton
    Mark Hamilton 11 years ago .Reply

    “It happens in e-mail; it happens in blogs.”

    This isn’t just an online thing; it happens in print, too. Back when I newspapered for a living, it got to the point that whenever I wrote a satirical column, I would have to label it as such to prevent the phone calls from flooding in. I drew some lessons: people tend to take what’s in black-and-white seriously and I wasn’t really as funny as I thought I was.

  2. Ryan
    Ryan 11 years ago .Reply

    Yes. That. Exactly. All day long. Suddenly every project is due, and everyone remembers that one *other* project they didn\'t mention to you before the holidays. Happy New Year, indeed.

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